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Delicious Wines and Tacos North of the Border

Delicious Wines and Tacos North of the Border

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Just a few hours and what seems a world away from Seattle is a little piece of paradise, where the sun (almost) always shines, the grapes always grow, and the tacos will make you swear you've been catapulted south of the border without a moment’s notice. The destination? Sleepy little Quincy, Wash., home to The Gorge Amphitheatre and last time anyone checked just more than 6,000 residents — it's perfect for a one-day getaway.

See Seattle Day Trip: Delicious Wines and the Best Tacos North of the Border Slideshow

Start at Cave B Estate Winery, which is just outside of Quincy and perched 900 feet above the Columbia River with jaw-dropping views of the gorge below, which is the home of The Gorge Amphitheatre. Neurosurgeon and owner Vincent Bryan II jokingly describes giving directions to his winery as, "Just take I-90 out of Seattle, head east, when you see the sun, turn left, and when you're directly under it, you've arrived!"

The 205 days a year of sun aren't the only things that make this winery such a worthy destination. The 100 acres of Cave B vineyards reflect tremendously varied soil micro-zones, allowing winemaker Alfredo "Freddy" Arredondo to make an incredibly broad array of wines, including merlots, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs, chardonnays, and rieslings. The secret of this magical wine country has finally been shared, with the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley viticultural area’s recent official designation by the federal government as an American Viticultural Area, the 13th AVA in Washington State.

The nearby Gorge Amphitheatre seats 20,000 and has hosted everyone from Rod Stewart to Chuck Berry, sip some extraordinary wines while taking in the terrain and tunes. The winery also has its own restaurant, Tendrils, which pairs wines with a seasonally changing menu.

In contrast to the grandeur of Cave B Winery, a short drive into modest Quincy is worth it for Tacos Mi Pueblo, a humble eatery that consistently puts out truly exceptional Mexican fare. While the chicken tortilla soup is the standout, there is nothing better than the tacos al pastor, marinated pork tacos reminiscent of those found on the streets of Mexico.

Before heading back to the mist of Seattle’s Puget Sound, stop at local favorite The Tav in Ellensburg, an hour southwest of Quincy. A bit gruff-looking on the outside, inside you’ll find friendly locals, a hearty selection of beers on tap, and a burger that will keep you full all the way back to Seattle.

Erina Malarkey is the Seattle Travel City Editor for The Daily Meal.

50 Things to Eat in California Before You Die

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California natives will tell you that there’s no place better than California and people from all other states will tell you that there’s no better place to visit than California. Because not only does California have golden beaches and endless sunshine, it also has some of the best food out there. There’s a reason why so many California restaurants have been featured on “before you die” type bucket lists, with the most recent being Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2016.

But with so many amazing places to eat, how can you even possibly know where to begin? That’s where this list comes in clutch. We’ve compiled this handy guide of the fifty best things to eat in California — perfect for both locals and visitors alike. Enjoy, and happy eating!

1. Any Dog at Pink’s Hot Dogs

Photo courtesy of Huishi L on

Normal hot dogs are boring. Pink’s hot dogs are epic. They’re named after infamous celebrities and are topped with anything from bacon to sour cream to nacho cheese.

2. A Fully Topped Donut at California Donuts

Photo courtesy of Sheila A on

California Donuts also proves that Californians love their toppings. While there’s a good selection of your normal sprinkle and maple bacon donuts, this famous donut shop also has must-try cereal and candy-topped donuts.

3. Chicken and Waffles at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles

Photo courtesy of expatthought on Tumblr

Roscoe’s is the only place to have the classic chicken and waffle combo. With chains all around California, you have no excuse not to hit one up.

4. Bacon, Egg, and Cheese at Eggslut

The only thing slutty about this place is the amount of yolk porn you’ll see from every single egg dish.

5. Godmother from Bay Cities

Photo courtesy of

Good Italian subs are hard to find in California, but Bay Cities has got you covered. Pick one up for your next beach day — the Godmother is their best-selling one.

6. Animal Style Anything from In-N-Out Burger

Photo courtesy of fastfoodlover21 on Tumblr

The not-so-secret “secret” menu at In-n-Out includes both animal-style fries and an animal-style burger. Either one is good — or both, if you love that animal sauce.

7. Breakfast Burrito at Tacos Villa Corona

Photo courtesy of @welikela on Instagram

Nobody makes breakfast burritos like Californians do. This little hole-in-the-wall taco shop beats all the competition with its perfect combination of egg, potato and chorizo.

8. Custom Crêpe from Harajuku Crêpe

Photo courtesy of Chris C on

Parisians aren’t the only ones who can make an awesome crêpe. Harajuku Crêpes is a Japanese crêpe place that lets you customize your own crêpe, and has options for add-ins ranging from sesame ice cream to mochi. Added bonus — everything is organic.

9. Açai Bowl from Banzai Bowls

Photo courtesy of

Açai bowls may have originated in Brazil and first became popular in Hawaii, but they’re still a SoCal favorite. Topped with fruit and superfoods, you’ll feel healthy and fit right in as you stroll down the streets of Santa Monica.

10. Poke from Sweetfin Poke

Photo courtesy of Amy C on

Poke is another Hawaiian favorite that Californians have adopted. Though nothing can beat true Hawaiian poke, Sweetfin comes pretty damn close.

11. California Burrito from Nico’s Mexican Food

Photo courtesy of burritosofsandiego on Tumblr

If you haven’t had fries in a burrito, you haven’t truly lived. This San Diego classic takes normal burritos to a whole new level and is a perfect post-beach meal.

12. Seafood Burrito from El Zarape

Photo courtesy of Allison J on

San Diegans sure know how to do a burrito right. Instead of fish tacos, make sure to try a seafood burrito in San Diego — it’s much more filling and is better than your typical carne asada burrito.

13. Cheeseburger from Hodad’s

Photo courtesy of Matt De Turk on

The beauty of this cheeseburger in its simplicity. It’s juicy and and sinful and everything a burger should be.

14. Carne Asada Tater Tots from Bull Taco

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Carne asada tater tots are carb-y bowls of goodness — an upgrade to the classic carne asada fries.

15. Churros from Disneyland

Photo courtesy of disneychurros on Tumblr

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, and their churros will make you the happiest person on earth.

16. Tacos Al Pastor (Adobada) from Tacos el Gordo de Tijuana B.C.

Photo courtesy of Andrew S

This Chula Vista place serves the most authentic tacos north of the border. The adobada is carved off a massive spit and plopped into warm corn tortillas topped with special sauce. Heaven.

17. The Rebel Within from Craftsman and Wolves

Photo courtesy of Lin Lin S on

Surprise yolk porn is the best yolk porn. Just cut into this savory muffin and you’ll see.

18. Matt Cain Sandwich from Ike’s Place

Photo courtesy of @tylertsd on Instagram

Go to Ike’s and you’ll be guaranteed a full and satisfied stomach. Any of their sandwiches are good (it is a famous place, after all), but the Matt Cain has three different types of meat, automatically making it one of our top choices.

19. Sushirrito from Sushirrito

Photo courtesy of Nancy L on

California is the land of the burritos, apparently. And the birthplace of the infamous sushirrito, aka everything that’s good about sushi wrapped up in a burrito body.

20. Carne Asada Super Burrito from La Taqueria

Photo courtesy of Mani B on

SoCal may have the best California burritos, but NorCal has the best classic burritos. La Taqueria does it the authentic way, with no rice and lots of guac.

21. Porchetta Sandwich from Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie

Photo courtesy of Alex P on

If you’re ever in San Francisco, hitting up the Embarcadero market is the first thing you should do. Find the red tent and get in line to get these porchetta sandwiches — we promise you won’t regret it. And if you’re looking for a more carb-heavy meal (aren’t we always?), get the potatoes as well.

22. Secret Breakfast from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

Photo courtesy of

Breakfast in ice cream form? Um yes. While the ingredients of this ice cream may be a secret (hint: it contains whiskey and cornflakes), the fact that it’s one of the most popular ice cream flavors in California definitely isn’t.

23. Mint Mojito Coffee from Philz Coffee

Photo courtesy of Philz Coffee on

There’s not actually any alcohol in this coffee (sorry), but it’s the most unique coffee you’ll ever taste. They put actual mint leaves in, giving your coffee an instant pick-me-up.

24. All You Can Eat KBBQ from Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ Restaurant

Photo courtesy of Steph S on

AYCE KBBQ > any buffet you’ve ever been to in your life. Just pay a set price and you get as many plates of meat as you want, as well as many side dishes as you want.

#SpoonTip: Don’t order more than you can eat — they charge $15 for unfinished meat.

25. Pork Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) from Din Tai Fung

Photo courtesy of Din Tai Fung on Facebook

This famous Taiwanese chain has moved to the US, which is a win for people who love soup dumplings. Which, to be honest, should be everyone. Thin skin, flavorful broth, and quality meat makes Din Tai Fun’s xiao long bao a definite dim sum must-try.

26. Garlic Knots from C&O Trattoria

Photo courtesy of

Garlic lovers, you have to try this. These garlic knots are like garlic bread on steroids: warm, fluffy, and wonderfully flavored with lots of garlic.

27. Ramen from Daikokuya

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Perfectly chewy noodles and a rich, flavorful broth makes Daikokuya’s ramen the best in LA and subsequently, California.

28. Omusubi from Sunny Blue

Photo courtesy of Jay B on

What’s not to love about a place that has the tagline “this little place has balls”? Sunny Blue specializes in Japanese onmusubi (also known as onigiri), which are filled rice balls. Any of the balls are a good choice, though the miso beef is one of the most popular choices.

29. Fish Tacos from Ricky’s Fish Tacos

Photo courtesy of Roland L on

Fish tacos are a California beach classic. With so many options, you can’t really go wrong eating them anywhere in California. But Ricky’s has been dubbed the “best fish taco” from Serious Eats and LA Weekly, to name a few.

30. Sushi Combination from Sushi Ota

Photo courtesy of John Pastor on

Don’t let the strip mall location fool you. Sushi Ota has the best sushi in San Diego, and arguably some of the best sushi in the state. Plus, you can try live uni if you’re feeling adventurous.

31. Self-serve Boba from Class 302

Move over, self-serve fro yo. Self-serve boba is here, fulfilling all boba addicts’ dreams. You can customize your drink to your heart’s content, which is great for just about anyone.

#SpoonTip: Check out the do’s and don’ts of self-serve boba here.

32. Umami Burger from Umami Burger

Photo courtesy of umamiburger on Tumblr

“Umami” means a flavor with a distinct, pleasant savory taste, and the aptly named Umami Burger chain has burgers with unique combinations that will fulfill your umami receptors. Although all their options are interesting, go with the classic Umami Burger for your first time (Parmesan frico, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and Umami ketchup) — it will be sure to satisfy your tastebuds.

33. Half Chicken from Zankou Chicken

Photo courtesy of Dikran I on

Hungry? Get Zankou’s half chicken. Not hungry? Get Zankou’s half chicken and share. It’s crispy and crunchy and will make you rethink your previous concept of chicken.

34. Local Beer from Telegraph Brewing Company

Photo courtesy of Telegraph Brewing Co. on

Though California is known for its Napa Valley wines, beer lovers should know that the locally brewed craft beers are something worth trying as well. Telegraph has seasonal beers as well as classic beers, all of which are made with locally sourced ingredients.

35. Green Tea Latte from Urth Caffe

Photo courtesy of

This matcha latte is probably one of the most Instagrammed photos by anyone who has been to or lived in SoCal, and for good reason. It looks artsy and is made with care from ceremonial-grade matcha from a family farm in Japan.

36. Macarons from Bottega Louie

Photo courtesy of John L on

Bottega Louie has food, but don’t even bother. Just go for the rainbow macarons — get a box.

37. Baby Back Ribs from Phil’s BBQ

Photo courtesy of Phil’s BBQ on

You don’t need to go to Texas for barbecue — Phil’s was not only on Thrillist’s Best BBQ in America, but also was recently featured on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2016.

38. Praise the Lard from The Waffle Experience

Photo courtesy of Eric C on

Sacramento is one of the most underrated food cities in California. But with restaurants like The Waffle Experience, it has recently come into the spotlight. The local cafe features creatively named waffle combinations like Farmer in the Dell, Praise the Lard, and Eggcellent. We suggest that anyone who has a hankering for pork belly go for Praise the Lard, which has cider-braised pork belly, a farm fresh egg, burrata cheese, a lard-stuffed waffle, maple syrup, and on-the-vine tomatoes.

39. Mac ‘n Cheetos from The Attic

Photo courtesy of Ivana T on

Literally the stuff of college student dreams.

40. Oysters from Hog Island Oysters

Photo courtesy of

They grow, harvest, shuck, and shell their own oysters, so the oysters are always unbelievably fresh. You can find them in Napa or in San Fran, but we recommend that you visit their farm at Marshall for the full experience.

41. Cioppino from Sotto Mare

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Cioppino is a tomato stew filled with seafood and pasta — aka the perfect meal no matter what the weather or your mood. You can’t get much more authentic than Sotto Mare, which is right in the heart of San Francisco’s Italian North Beach.

42. Short Rib Tacos from Kogi BBQ Truck

Photo courtesy of Michael S on

Not only did Kogi BBQ basically begin the food truck craze, but they also began the Asian fusion craze with their Korean-Mexican dishes.

43. Carbonara Pizza from Pizzeria Delfina

Photo courtesy of Yuestudio Y on

If you thought carbonara only works as a type of pasta, think again. Thanks to Pizzeria Delfina, you can now enjoy it in a pizza form, runny egg and all.

44. Dry Fried Chicken Wings at San Tung’s

Photo courtesy of Amy T on

Chinese food is a big part of Californian cuisine. So instead of KFC or Chick-Fil-A, we have Sam Tung’s to satisfy our fried chicken cravings.

45. Brunch at Blu Jam Cafe

Photo courtesy of Blu Jam Cafe on

No one loves brunch as much as Californians do, and with places like Blu Jam, that’s no surprise. They have everything from the healthy to the decadent, and it’s all Instagram-worthy.

#SpoonTip: They serve breakfast all day and offer vegan and gluten-free options, so there’s really no losing by going here.

46. House Meat Pie at Beijing Pie House

Photo courtesy of Chris H on

There are dumplings and there are steamed bao, and then there are Beijing Pie House’s meat pies. Filled with the traditional dumpling fillings, these savory pies fit perfectly into your hand and taste wonderful in your mouth.

47. Chocolate Bouchons from Bouchon Bakery

Photo courtesy of

New York has their fair share of famous bakeries, but that doesn’t mean that California’s desserts should be overlooked. Bouchon Bakery is famous for its innovative and gorgeous pastries, especially their decadent chocolate bouchons.

48. Whole Snook from Coni’Seafood

Photo courtesy of

Jonathon Gold ate this, so you probably should too. Snook is rarely seen in the states, so it’s definitely a specialty.

#SpoonTip: Gold recommends trying the triple-spicy guac with this. We agree.

49. The Bambu Special from Bambu

Photo courtesy of

Irvine is the Asian food hub, so it only makes sense that the most unique Asian food is found there. Bambu takes desserts one step further with its traditional Vietnamese Chè (sweet beverages, desserts, and drinks). They have a smashed avocado drink for die-hard avo lovers, but for everyone else, we recommend the Bambu Special, which is made with fresh coconut juice with longan, basil seed, coconut meat, and pandan jelly.

50. Julian Apple Pie from Julian Pie Company

Photo courtesy of Julie K at

One of the most famous pie places in California, the Julian Pie Company grows their own apples and retains the original traditions from when they first started, making it a cozy, homey place to grab a slice of pie. Though based out of Julian, you can now find their pies in San Diego and Riverside as well.

Cinco De Mayo Recipes

Cinco De Mayo is right around the corner which means it’s time to whip up all of your favorite Cinco De Mayo recipes! Truth be told, I don’t need a holiday for an excuse to make all of my favorite Mexican inspired recipes, but if you do, here’s your excuse! I am a sucker for all things Mexican – from good authentic tacos, to the not-so authentic kind. And there’s nothing I love more than homemade guacamole and salsa with warm tortilla chips!

Below you are going to find everything from dips and appetizers to a variety of taco ideas, and even a casserole to create a Mexican feast filled with something everyone will love! There are plenty of flavorful south of the border bites to try all week long! The only thing I’m missing is a Mexican inspired dessert, but don’t you worry, that’ll be coming up this week!

Here’s what you’ll find below: Cheesy Bean Dip, Taco Pie with Queso Blanco, Steak Quesadillas, Taco Pasta Bake, Chipotle Lime Chicken Burrito Bowls, Classic Salsa, Cheesy Macho Nachos, Queso Blanco, The Best Fajitas, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Oven Tacos, Mexican Pizzas, Queso Blanco Dip, and Taco Dip!

The Best Guacamole – Hands-down, my favorite recipe for guacamole. It’s creamy just like guacamole should be, but it’s got incredible flavor with the addition of spices like cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper!

Reader Interactions


I disagree with the list… the best tacos are tacos el Gordo on H street. The fancier the place the worst they taste…. other areas with good tacos are barrio Logan and city heights…. but not the artisanal tacos.

Hi Jean, thanks for your comment. We actually included another Tacos el Gordo location on this list and also wrote a full review about them here: Tacos El Gordo San Diego Review. We definitely agree: they have some amazing tacos and a list about the best Tacos in San Diego could not be complete without mentioning them.

You definitely missed one you need to check out Taco Shop on the southwest corner of University and Aragon they have the best carnitas in all of San Diego County you stand in that room and wait to be served and you will be given I have tacos while you just stand there for your order sit down take a seat and wait for a plate to appear the daughter speaks English the owner and Chef does not he will look at you & smile and the next thing you know you were eating the best carnitas tacos U ever had

Uhhh, thanks for the tip. I will definitely have to check it out and might add them to the list! I LOVE Carnitas.

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Tacos El Gordo 3 - National City

Its going to be hard to consume sub-par tacos after eating here.

This place is as everyone has described -truly amazing. Strangely enough, gabacho mio messed up in ordering. When you enter on the side - the cashier is way back in the opposite corner - so I looked up to the menu and went over and ordered. I then went out side, anticipating my order to be called.

Wrong was I. I waited until I thought it was taking too long with my friend, then went back inside. This is when I discovered you order with the Taqueros first then bring your made tacos to the cajera. Ach so!

I think that this is so cool - there is something so personal and intimate about talking with and asking for the cook preparing your food - I like the connection. They are quite funny too! Apparently, each of the taqueros is in charge of a couple of the fillings. One guy does Buche and tripas, another- azteca and asada, a woman takes care of the fresh masa cebbolitas, and chile gueros and the final guy has the al pastor and carnitas.

I got the buche, azteca, and pastor with some gratis cebbolitas and gueros. Everthing was delicious - I'd put money on the al pastor being the best in San Diego without a sweat. Only knock is I wish the cebolittas and gueros were warmer.

The treat the tortillas well here - I think the azteca and asada are fresh masa based - but the others are just as upple, warm, sweated and decently greased.

Three tacos are enough - trust me - you will be stuffed.

As I was leaving the fun guy I thanked the guy who took care of the asadas and said 'estuvo deliciosa.'

Tacos de Canasta Are Still Hard to Find in Texas. A New Irving Restaurant Does Them Right.

Steamed for up to an hour in woven baskets, these tacos are a Mexico City favorite.

The oil-slicked tacos al vapor available across Texas are predominantly of the northern Mexican style. These are small bites cooked in a metal steamer and available all day at many taquerias across the state. The Mexico City version of the dish, available only in the morning, is called tacos de canasta, and they’re still tough to find north of the border. These tacos are filled and folded, then splashed with heated, chile-infused oil as they’re being stacked in a plastic-lined, woven basket (canasta). The final step is covering the vessel to allow for steaming on the back of a bicycle en route to the vending location. It’s an elaborate, time-consuming process. But at a walk-up window inside an Irving beer store, just past the fantastical brews released by Martin House Brewing and the racks of cabernet, you’ll find an uncommon example of a taco de canasta. That’s where A. Molina (he didn’t want to share his full name) opened his taqueria, the simply named Taco Canasta , in early November.

The location came as an opportunity Molina couldn’t pass up. Though he hopes to open a chain of Mexican restaurants someday, he wanted to start small. Finding the right place proved tricky. Then he stumbled upon the space that would house Taco Canasta inside a Discount Beer & Wine store in a strip mall. As Molina says, the beer store owner was looking to lease its kitchen. Molina came across it and snatched it up. “I wanted to find something that would make more financial sense for me initially,” he says, “and then open the door to the next locations with the profit.” In a sense, this is a test kitchen.

Molina, 40, has worked in the restaurant industry all of his life, juggling a variety of roles. “I have all the skills in inventory, management, human resources, quality control, and, of course, cooking,” he says. But he’d always dreamed of opening his own restaurant. For Molina, Taco Canasta is an ode to childhood nostalgia. Growing up in Mexico City, he filled up on inexpensive tacos de canasta for breakfast on the way to school or for lunch from vendors who always set up on the same corner or outside a subway station. They were always there. They were always delicious,” he remembers. “And when they’re done, they’re done,” he adds. Tacos de canasta are sold primarily on the street in Mexico it’s rare to find them in a restaurant, so if your favorite vendor sells out for the day, you’re out of luck.

The taqueria operates inside a beer and wine store. Photograph by José R. Ralat

When Molina moved to Dallas twenty years ago, he was disappointed that he couldn’t find tacos de canasta in North Texas. Now that he’s able to make them for others, Molina says the experience provides a sense of satisfaction that “just hits your heart.”

Taco Canasta opened quietly Molina didn’t take out any ads, and he waited a month to host a grand opening. He says he wanted the time to perfect his recipes, train his employees, and get all the business’s systems in place. Thanks to word of mouth, the taqueria soon amassed a loyal following. When Molina finally threw an opening celebration on the first Saturday in December, the turnout was “amazing” and “humongous,” he says. He sold more than 600 tacos de canasta that day. Now the business is putting out fantastic food, fresh from giant canastas that can each hold between 150 and 300 tacos. Peek through the ordering window, and you might get a glimpse of the baskets that cradle and steam tacos for thirty minutes to an hour. Their sight is reassuring. Molina isn’t taking shortcuts.

The vessels hold the small tacos made with fresh locally sourced tortillas (Molina wouldn’t give away the producer’s name). Each is filled with your choice of roughly mashed potatoes that reveal fluffy edges inside the tortilla, refried beans rich with lard, fine threads of beefy stewed deshebrada (shredded beef), meaty chicharrones, and juicy, vegetable-studded picadillo. The picadillo and the potatoes are my favorites. Get one of each and don’t share. The orders come with a suave salsa verde and a salsa roja that might have you coughing if you’re caught off guard by its spice. Pickled cabbage and onions are available as garnishes. They add a nice crunch and a sharp flavor.

Although Taco Canasta’s signature dish is worth the drive to Irving, it’s not the only shining selection offered by Molina and his team. The tacos dorados , made from tortillas pressed in-house, are packed with any of the fillings available for tacos de canastas, folded and deep-fried to the beautifully golden hue that gives them their name. Each is topped with crisp lettuce, crumbled queso fresco, and drizzles of cream. Molina is also proud of the mini tacos (labeled “tacos callejeros”), which also begin with house-made tortillas. The menu is rounded out with sandwiches, including tortas and pambazos (chile-soaked tortas), quesadillas, and even churros. And if you’re looking for a classic breakfast taco or burrito, you won’t leave disappointed.

Delicious Wines and Tacos North of the Border - Recipes

Their menu is limited, tacos, quesadillas, tortas and birria. All are outstanding. Delicious and at a reasonable price. If you want a fancy environment this is not the place. If you want great carne asada tacos, there is no other place. If I find one better, I will post here.

9 - 13 of 14 reviews

A must go place for great customer service and super awesome authentic Tj style tacos. It done how it should be done no shortcuts.

If your travels don't include crossing the boarder to our friends just south of us but you want some authentic street tacos ( or burritos, mulas, etc.) put this place on your must do list! The U.S. hasn't figured out how to do "street" food like Tijuana. Every once in a while you might find a roach coach that gets close, but the downside to this is 1) quality is very hit and miss and 2) finding one when and where you want one can be challenging.
Great food, nice people, decent prices, what more can you ask for? Treat your taste buds to some great food (your stomach will protest to the amount of food your taste buds will want enjoy!).

Solid tacos here and they also have al pastor. Another good thing is the condiment bar where you can pile on all the cilantro, onions, roasted jalapeños, and salsa etc. If you go in the weekends it's pretty busy with families.

Critic’s pick: The Jalisco-style barbacoa at Chorizo

4820 Hampton Blvd., Suite A, Norfolk, 757-390-2526, Dine-in, takeout and limited patio seats

Chorizo chef Rodrigo Ochoa didn’t set out to take part in the biggest Mexican food trend in America. He hails from Guadalajara in Jalisco, where he grew up on legendary barbacoa taco halls such as Tacos Omar Carlos and Tacos Juan. The barbacoa there is made with beef in a style much like birria: stewed in pots of tomato-chili broth.

The barbacoa is then stuffed into tacos whose shells are fried on the grill using a basting of the barbacoa’s fats and spice, served with grilled onions and often drowned in that beefy sauce. In Guadalajara, that’s breakfast.

So this spring, Ochoa decided to bring those tacos to his little Norfolk taqueria on the weekends as a lunch and dinner special, stewing fatty beef cheek for eight hours and serving it in grease-crisped tacos alongside chile-cumin-clove-spiced consomé.

But his partner at Chorizo, Fernanda Martinez, had also seen the quesabirria craze on Instagram. Would he be opposed to making a quesadilla version of his barbacoa stuffed with gooey cheese, using flour tortillas they made fresh in-house?

He was not at all opposed.

That weekend-only quesadilla at Chorizo is now a monster. The lightly toasted and toothsome tortillas are stuffed until fluffy with Oaxaca cheese, grilled onion and achingly tender beef cheek. It is a school in decadent richness leavened with spice, and barely contained by the crispness of wheat.

The consomé served as dipper triples down on that acid-balanced fat. The broth at Chorizo is not something you sip: It is instead dense, beefy, spiced au jus, made to accentuate the already unbearable umami of the quesadilla.

The tacos are also excellent, a showcase for the savory depths of Ochoa’s barbacoa. But my God, that quesadilla: I think about it too much. It will likely kill me long before anything you read about elsewhere in the newspaper.

How the Authentic Taco Made a Gourmet Comeback

MAYBE IT WAS the Doritos Locos Taco that did it. Maybe that unholy alliance of ground beef, cheddar cheese and sour cream enveloped in a giant neon-orange Dorito shell was too much for chefs to bear. Whatever the cause, gastronomy’s top echelon has plunged into a state of intense taco-consciousness.

It’s not limited to the New World. In Copenhagen, René Redzepi has taken a break from foraging reindeer lichen to help Rosio Sanchez, formerly his sous-chef at Noma—currently ranked number one on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list—to open the taco shop Hija de Sanchez. Albert Adrià, following his modernist exploits at El Bulli alongside his brother Ferran, opened a taqueria last year in Barcelona called Niño Viejo. Still, the taco fixation does seem particularly acute stateside. From New York to Nashville, American chefs are waking up to authentic Mexican cuisine, with a particular focus on the humble foldable street snack.

“Tacos are the one Mexican foodstuff we are all vehemently opinionated about,” said Alex Stupak, an alumnus of high-end modernist restaurants WD-50 in New York and Alinea in Chicago, who has committed himself since 2011 to serving up versions at Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria in New York. Last fall, Mr. Stupak opened Empellón Al Pastor, a counter-service operation dedicated to his favorite taco.

This latest wave of American taco-mania has roots that go back decades. But until recently, tacos north of the border were going through what might be called their baroque period. We have been gorging on the likes of corn tortillas stuffed with Korean barbecue and chili soy slaw at Kogi trucks in Los Angeles, chasu pork tacos with hoisin sauce at East Side King in Austin and mushroom tacos with cashews and kale at ABC Cocina in New York. Then there is the aforementioned Doritos Locos, Taco Bell’s runaway hit, which stretched the definition of the dish to its breaking point. (The debate over whether Tex-Mex tacos—a subset currently spreading like Texas kudzu across New York’s restaurant scene—qualify as legitimate Mexican food is thorny enough to warrant a story of its own.)

Recipe Summary

  • 6 dried guajillo chile peppers, seeded
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 dried chile de arbol peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 pounds beef chuck roast
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • 1 pinch ground thyme
  • 1 pinch dried marjoram
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 18 corn tortillas
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add guajillo, ancho, and arbol chile peppers boil for 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and allow peppers to soak until cool. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the water.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Rinse meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Line a heavy cast-iron grill pan or griddle with aluminum foil and place over high heat. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on top. Grill until tomato skin is burned on all sides and begins to peel, 3 to 5 minutes.

Combine soaked chile peppers, cooked tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, 2 teaspoons black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and salt to taste in a blender. Pour in reserved 1/4 cup of chile water blend until smooth.

Strain chile sauce through a mesh strainer and pour over the browned meat in the Dutch oven, turning roast so it is completely covered with sauce. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven.

Bake, basting meat every 45 minutes with the sauce, until birria begins to fall apart, 3 to 4 hours. Remove lid and bake uncovered until birria is crispy on top, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with 2 layers of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm tortillas on a griddle. Fill each tortilla with birria and top with chopped onion and cilantro.


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